The train took off as soon as I had been escorted into my sleeper. It only stops for a few minutes at Pyay. Then, the conductor having been ousted from my bed, I was alone to examine the compartment. And what a surprise it was. I had never seen a sleeper like it before. There were four berths, two upper and two lower, the bottom two as big as proper beds. And hallelujah! There was a private toilet. A door led into the next carriage, but it was locked, so there was no access to the rest of the train. More doors either side of the compartment opened onto the station platform (if we were at a station) or out into the open air! Once inside, the door to the platform was the only way out, but there were levers to pull for help in an emergency.
Before he left the conductor had tried to wrestle the seats down into beds, but not all would comply. I only needed one bed so I chose the one he had been using. It was on the side of the carriage, so that when I lay down my body was alongside an open window. That was the air-conditioning. There was a cupboard with a metal table top between the beds that was beat-up and battered like the rest of the compartment.
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Despite the misgivings I’d had about this train and the negative reports I’d heard of it, it was the best train sleeper I have ever had. I lay with the open window level with my face, the breeze cooling me, and watched the stars in the velvet- dark night sky until I fell asleep. Lovely.
At first the train shook and swayed alarmingly and thoughts of derailment occurred to me, especially as the sleeper carriage was the last on the train and we were like the wagging tail of a dog. After a while, though, the movement settled down and the carriage only did the wagging bit now and then. By morning there was just the clicketty-clack of a regular train.
In my isolation I saw no one else on the train until it arrived at Bagan. But I saw lots of people at stations. Even in the small hours of the morning the stations we passed through were alive with people, bustle and noise. I woke now and then to hang out of the window and watch.
Dawn came and the air was still cool. I had needed my cardigan and the blanket provided. Now that we had travelled further north, the country was different. It had changed from green paddy fields wall to wall to sparse greenery with fewer trees and patches of brown dirt not a sight you see further south. There were small plots of corn, farmers ploughing fallow land with two oxen, and herds of cows and goats and an occasional pig or horse.
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